Concealed Carry Magazine, February/March, 2006, p. 20 – 22
By George Hill
Many readers have e-mailed me many times requesting a review of a Kahr pistol. Without further ado or delay, here is your review.
When Concealed Carry Magazine contacted Kahr Arms, they were most agreeable to send us a pistol for testing. After a phone call from the factory rep. (good guy by the way), they promptly sent out an example of their most popular little pistol. Of course, all Kahr Arms pistols are rather small, but this one is just about the smallest you would really want to go for in a 9MM automatic.
The box says KAHR ARMS PM9, Black Diamond Stainless Steel Slide. PM9094A is the official product number. Black Diamond is, from what I can tell, a finish applied over a stainless steel slide. It has a nice, smooth, flat, black finish. Stainless is an excellent material for concealed handguns because of its corrosion resistance. I’m not sure how this finish wears, but when it does at the normal places, the metal underneath remains the resistant and tough stainless. This could be an ideal combination.
This gun is almost in a league of its own when it comes to packaging fire power. The only gun that comes close is the Glock 26. Now, the Glock 26 is a good handgun, but many shooters complain that it is too thick. They often remark that they wish Glock would make a version just like it, but using a thinner, single-stack magazine. So far, Glock has not listened to these requests. Evidently, Kahr Arms has, and the result is the PM9. There is also a .40 caliber version that could be compared to the Glock 27, but we’re just talking about the 9MM today.
Size-wise, the PM9 is smaller than the Glock 26 in every dimension. It’s shorter in length and it’s shorter in height. Thanks to the single-stack configuration, it feels a lot thinner. It’s so small that it makes you think, “Wow, this is really a nine millimeter?” There are only a couple of other guns out there in 9MM that are smaller than the PM9, but none that I would like to shoot more than a few rounds out of. The PM9 pretty much reaches the lower limit of where you should go with size. It’s small enough to be concealed in pocket, but you can still shoot it. The PM9’s advantage is that in spite of being so small, it remains very shootable.
Some shooters dislike handguns so small that they dangle their pinkie fingers. The PM9 is a pinkie dangler to be true. But for those so inclined, Kahr’s spare magazine is one with an extension that allows for a full grip. Keep the short one in for concealment, and then when you need to reload, you can do so with the longer one. Simple, really.
The sights are not the typical, mere suggestions of handgun sights that you get on tiny pistols, but real, usable sights. This example comes with a “dot the i” configuration mostly seen on SIG pistols. The rear sight as a white rectangle in the center, while the front has the standard dot. Lining them up is fast and easy. Some guys don’t like this setup, but being a long-time SIG fan and owner, I actually like this setup better than the common “three dot” setup.
Helping the good sights is a good trigger, not a great trigger, but a good one. Not a heavy pull either-smooth enough to allow good control through the whole pull. Many shooters would be tickled to have a trigger this good on their bigger handgun offerings. The trigger feels like a traditional, double-action-only type pull, like what you would have in most revolvers. But it doesn’t allow for a second strike, meaning you can only pull the trigger once without having to cock the action again. If the pistol was loaded and you fired the gun, the action would cycle and cock the action per design. If the round was a dud, or you were dry firing (firing on an empty chamber), then you would have to pull the slide back by hand.
There is one thorn in the PM9’s side that I found to be distracting. Let me correct that. It wasn’t so much a thorn in the side of the pistol, but the pistol’s thorn in my side when I was carrying it inside the waistband-the slide release lever. Most of the gun sports decent contours around the edges after the muzzle. One of the things I appreciate about a good firearm is the craftsmanship of its creation and the quality of the work. Kahrs generally sport a very high level of both. That is why the slide release is such a disappointment. It sticks out like a sore thumb. (More on that in a minute.) The slide release lever remains as sharp as a bitter teenager’s tongue. The edges are not sharp enough to cause damage, but they are squared enough to be painful if they scrape along your side, going to and from a holster or if your thumb encounters it during recoil when firing. Some guys wouldn’t even think of it, but to me…? I find it irritating. The argument is that the sharper edges allow the shooter a sure grip on the lever for a positive release. Unfortunately, I don’t think that holds any water because other gun makers are putting out guns with levers that can be easily operated without feeling potentially dangerous. This is really my only complaint about the gun’s form factor, and it is a small complaint at that. I’m sure higher-end examples would sport a bevel or two on this part. If not, this would only take but a few seconds of time at a belt sander or a couple of minutes work with a file to sort out properly. I’m not sure if this would void any warranty, but if it did, I don’t see that it would be any trouble to buy a second lever to do the contouring work on.
My bride, who helps me out with camera work, likes to try out each new pistol that I review. She instantly liked the PM9 from the first time she saw it. After she fired it, she announced with no hesitation, “This is my favorite out of all the guns so far.” She’s said that before, but was adamant about this one. (I think I know what to get her for her birthday now.) She mentioned that one reason for liking it so much was the way the little gun shot. It shoots to near point of aim and groups well (about 3 inches) with little effort, thanks to the good sights and trigger. When I fired it, I didn’t exactly dub it my favorite, but I do like it. The recoil was tame and controllable. The .40 caliber version would be a handful, but the 9mm certainly wasn’t.
The only downside was that which I have already pointed out, the slide release. During recoil, the sharp corner would intercept the thumb of my firing hand causing some…I’ll call it “discomfort.” I could have adjusted my grip, but that is the way I shoot. I didn’t have a single malfunction during testing. The gun performed flawlessly.
Overall, I’m impressed with the Kahr, and to be honest, I didn’t expect to be. I had heard from some shooters that these things can jam up a lot when new. This wasn’t the case in the example that I was sent. Maybe it wasn’t so new and had already been worn in. If this is the case with all Kahrs, then it’s a simple matter of buying a couple of bulk packs of ammo when you buy the gun, and spend some time getting familiar with the gun. A 200 round break-in period is short, and you can do that in an hour. Before you carry any handgun for personal defense, you should shoot at least that many just to get to know the gun and to train your hands in its feel and function. While I wouldn’t make it my primary carry piece, it makes for an outstanding back-up gun (or “bug gun”) or for deep concealment.
I showed this piece to a friend of mine who happens to be a Police Chief. He was impressed with size, weight, sights, and trigger. Being a Marine, this man is not one to be easily impressed with any new gun to come around the corner. One comment he made was, “This would make for a hell of a back-up gun.” Yes, yes it would. This is one gun that every serious shooter or professional gunslinger should have in their arsenal. It’s small, light, reliable, and it shoots like a bigger gun. If I was Ian Flemming, I’d have Bond packing one of these babies. It would even look cool with a suppressor. Does the Kahr PM9 get my nod of approval? Absolutely.
George Hill is an NRA Certified Pistol and Personal Protection instructor and the writer and publisher of MadOgre.com. Visit his website for more information on Mad Ogre. http://www.madogre.com (Photography by Deveni)